There’s a definite buzz surrounding King King’s highly anticipated third studio album, "Reaching For The Light". At a time when the shuffled playlist holds sway, along come nine hot tracks that defy you to press skip.
In 2015, "Reaching For The Light" is the main event. Released Monday 4th May on Manhaton Records, this third studio album is set to rubber-stamp King King’s status as the boldest creative force in the game, and dashes the hopes of rivals out to take their crown.
"We’re really proud of this album," says front man Alan Nimmo. "It’s faster, louder, more energetic and more exciting. It’s got the potential to blow the roof off."
Don’t call it a comeback. King King has never been away. Two years may have passed since the Glasgow outfit’s all-conquering second album, Standing In The Shadows, established them as pack-leaders of the British scene, but Alan Nimmo (vocals/guitar), Lindsay Coulson (bass), Wayne Proctor (drums) and Bob Fridzema (keyboards) have barely cooled their heels or left the headlines.
There were the five triumphs at the 2014 British Blues Awards (including gongs for ‘Best Album’ and ‘Best Band’). The nods came from top media tastemakers, from DJ Paul Jones to the Classic Rock: Blues Magazine. The blood and thunder of their international headline tours, and recent support slots with John Mayall gave the British blues-boom godfather a tough act to follow.
"We couldn’t settle with another album that was only as good as Standing In The Shadows," says Alan. "We’d have got crucified for it. We’ve made a rod for our backs, because now we need something a few steps above. We’re always trying to improve – and I think we’ve managed it."
Opening with a gunshot drum fill, a stinging funk-blues guitar riff and a rabble-rousing opening gambit – "I’m in trouble!" – King King’s third album bursts out of the blocks and raises the bar.
"It’s short, sharp and exciting," notes Alan of opening track Hurricane, "and it’s got that edge. Starting an album with that song, you know that we mean business."
Indeed, Hurricane sets the tone for an album that hits hard. "I’d say there’s a natural progression from Standing In The Shadows," explains Alan, "but on this album, we were delving more into a classic rock style. I grew up listening to bands like Free, Bad Company, early Whitesnake and Thunder. The influences were starting to show during Standing In The Shadows and now they’re really coming through. We’ve always had tunes that were smoldering and soulful. Now, there’s stuff that’s a bit faster-paced, too."
This new album is no one-trick pony. Tracking at the Superfly Studios in Nottinghamshire, snatching days between tour commitments, the band’s group songwriting ran the gamut, from the gospel-inflected beauty of Lay With Me to the funk-rock flavours of Crazy.
"Everyone puts in their input and influences," says Alan. "Bob is a big Janis Joplin fan, Wayne likes Genesis, and Lindsay comes from the background of The Fabulous Thunderbirds and all these obscure country bands. So there’s a great mixture in there. And after spending so much time on the road together, we’ve got real chemistry too. This band is like a gang. And that’s how it has to be."
The dynamic musicianship, meanwhile, is bolstered by lyrics that are heartfelt and raw.
"Each song has a personal meaning, drawn from my own experience," explains Alan. "I actually wrote the lyrics to Rush Hour when I was sixteen, about the pressures of life, but then I didn’t touch it again until now, when I tracked it down and finished it off.
Hurricane is about when someone comes in to your life and leaves again, leaving you feeling like you've been bulldozed and you want more! You Stopped The Rain is a sadder story: I wrote the lyrics when my brother had cancer in his throat a few years back, and had an operation. The worry that came with that for everyone was distressing. Obviously, you find a way to ease things, and luckily enough, I get to write about these things through songs."
In 2015, with so many bands seemingly content to settle for transient throwaway pop, Reaching For The Light is real music: an album to soundtrack the good times and soothe you during the bad. Of course, King King will take all the plaudits, sales and awards statuettes you care to sling their way – but that’s not the objective.
"We all want to take this band as far as we can," says Alan. "You want to sell as many albums as possible, and anyone who says they don’t enjoy five-star reviews is lying. But most important is that we’ve got a great album that people can listen to and enjoy. That’s what really matters – and that’s the truth."
Alan Nimmo - Guitars, vocals
Lindsay Coulson - Bass
Wayne Proctor - Drums
Bob Fridzema - Keyboards
KING KING - BIOGRAPHY
King King are on a roll. Faced with their army of fans and armfuls of awards, it’s hard to believe that Alan Nimmo (vocals/guitar), Lindsay Coulson (bass), Wayne Proctor (drums) and Bob Fridzema (keys) have come so far, so fast. As Henry Yates of Classic Rock Blues notes, "King King are the hottest draw in British blues-rock". Yet there’s no smoke and mirrors behind their five-year rise: just killer songs, performed with true passion, by a fist-tight lineup.
Right now, the Glasgow-based band stand on the brink of their busiest period to date, preparing to pull the trigger on their hotly anticipated third album, Reaching For The Light, and bring the music to fans across Europe. "Our schedule is so busy," laughs Alan. "But you’ve just got to run with it."
In short, there’s no time for backslaps, even as King King reflect on an astonishing early run. As a measure of the band’s impact, consider their five victories at the 2014 British Blues Awards, not least ‘Best Band’ (for a third consecutive year) and ‘Best Album’ for 2013’s ‘Standing In The Shadows’.
Add to that, the inclusion of Shadows in both The Blues Mag’s Top 50 Albums of 2013, and Paul Jones’ BBC Radio 2 end-of-year countdown (the only British album in the running). And now, with ‘Reaching For The Light’ due to land on May 5th, they’ll need to clear some space in the trophy cabinet.
Media plaudits are always welcome, but perhaps the most tangible evidence that King King are doing something right are the audiences who have roared them to the rafters across the planet. It’s quite a coup, in an era when we’re told that honest, dues-paying rock ‘n’ roll is on the ropes. But then, ever since their live debut shook the Monaghan Blues Festival back in 2010, it was obvious there was something special about this four-piece.
King King were never exactly a ‘new band’, of course. Alan was already a familiar face on the international blues circuit while Lindsay, Wayne and original keys man Bennett Holland were all first-choice musicians with pedigree and past-form. Yet critically, whereas many talented lineups become a tug-of-war between egos, King King soon hit on a winning team dynamic, with all four members creating synergy on the stage and sparking ideas in the studio.
First came 2011’s ‘Take My Hand’. Dubbed "tremendous, terrific" by Maverick Magazine, crowned Blues Album of the Month in Classic Rock, and ultimately scoring the band’s first British Blues Award for ‘Best Album’, it was one hell of an opening gambit – topped only by the release of ‘Standing In The Shadows’ in March 2013.
While lesser bands complain of ‘difficult second album syndrome’, this was a follow-up that bottled King King’s jaw-breaking live power, and underlined the lineup’s evolving songwriting on tracks from the tough More Than I Can Take to the tender Long History Of Love. The Classic Rock Blues Mag deemed it "a sure-fire hit", and they were proved right, with demand for King King pulling the new lineup – now bolstered by Bob’s astonishing prowess on keys and organ – from Eastern Europe to Canada, for house-rocking sets that included the Ottawa and Mont Tremblant Blues Fests and the Canada AM show.
With King King, the soundbites and statistics only tell half the story. For conclusive proof of this band’s brilliance, you need only play the music – and the smart move is to start with their most powerful and personal album to date, ‘Reaching For The Light’. Co-written by all four members, recorded in snatches between touring commitments, and channeling everything from hard-rock to gospel, it’s another step up from a band with no reverse gear. "We’re really proud of this album," says Alan. "It’s faster, louder, more energetic, more exciting. It’s got the potential to blow the roof off."
No doubt, you’ll want to be there when it does. Alongside the release of ‘Reaching For The Light’ on May 5th, Alan, Lindsay, Wayne and Bob will be embarking on a continent-hopping tour schedule in 2015 that means there’s never been a better time to experience their magic from the front row. King King are moving fast. Catch them if you can…
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